Without street party, it's just not Easter for 4100 Club

April 12, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

The children wore their Easter finery with touches of turquoise cotton candy. The adults, many of whom have attended the outdoor party since they were tots, carried cameras and left lipstick prints on people they hadn't seen all winter. Families waited in line for kiddie and pony rides.

It wouldn't have been Easter without the 35th annual Easter Sunday street festival sponsored by the 4100 Club for its Brooklyn Park neighborhood. Generations jammed the parking lot, Edison Street was blocked off for the event, and every parking space for blocks around was taken.

"Since we've been kids we've been coming -- and now we bring our kids," said Edie Hopla of Brooklyn Park, as she held her 2-year-old daughter Hailie.

Ms. Hopla was part of an extended family of 10 people who came, as did many others, directly from services at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.

"It's a family day," said her cousin Audrey McNeill, also of Brooklyn Park. "This is a neighborhood place. Today you see people that you haven't seen for months, maybe years."

What has become a local tradition started 35 years ago, when George Coutros, the owner of the restaurant and lounge, promised to build a swimming pool and throw an Easter party for handicapped children if he recovered from a back problem. He got well, built the pool (now covered by a dining room addition) and the celebrations began. When Manny and Dino Spanomanolis bought the club 25 years ago, the parties continued. And they've kept growing.

"This money cannot buy," Manny Spanomanolis said, gesturing toward hundreds of smiling faces. "We give back to the community."

Everything outside -- the rides, the eggs, the raffles, the cotton candy -- was free.

Planning began months ago, but on Thursday the employees and volunteers boiled and colored 90 dozen eggs, on Friday they stuffed 1,200 bags of Easter candy, and yesterday morning they blew up six gross of balloons.

Help came from friends, relatives, Lions and Optimists clubs, and businesses that either donated their services or provided them at substantial discounts.

A string of dozens of toy bunnies, stuffed and vinyl, decorated the club for only part of the afternoon; they were raffled off.

Mingling with the crowd were Uncle Sam, the Easter Bunny, J. J. the Clown and a host of politicians.

Baltimore City Police Officer John Dodge, born and raised in Brooklyn, was the clown for the 12th year. "It's like old home."

"It's like family here," said Dennis Chaneski, helping out because "I can't fit on the rides anymore." The Linthicum resident, who grew up near the restaurant, was at the first outdoor neighborhood party.

He was among many people who returned to the old neighborhood, some for Easter dinner at home, some for dinner reunions at the restaurant, some to share nostalgic fun with their youngsters. Grandmothers sporting orchid corsages held the hands of tots waiting for their turn on a pony. Elderly adults watched from wheelchairs, older children watched over younger siblings and adults shrieked and waved across the street at high school chums.

"We used to live here," said Kathy Lilly, now of Essex. "I started coming here when I was riding those rides." Her daughter Kelsie, 2, was dressed up in lace and frills for her visit.

John Zipp, 14, of Brooklyn Park said the street party ranked right up there with opening day at the 10th Avenue baseball park, because he got to hang out with his friends.

Patsy Kelly has lived across Edison Street from the restaurant for 15 years, and her porch offers front-row seats for the festivities.

"I came just for this," her niece, Pam Welch, 8, of Linthicum, said with a sly smile.

"You came to see me, smartie," her aunt replied with a big hug.

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